The IDEA provides states with federal grants to institute early intervention programs. Any child younger than age three who has a developmental delay, or a physical or mental condition likely to result in a developmental delay, is eligible to receive early intervention services through these programs. Early Intervention (EI) services can vary widely from state to state and region to region. However, the services should address your child’s unique needs and should not be limited to what is currently available or customary in your region. The document that spells out your child’s needs and the services that will be provided is the Individual Family Service Program (IFSP). The IFSP should be based on a comprehensive evaluation of your child. It should describe your child’s current levels of functioning and the anticipated goals. It should also list the specific services that will be provided to your child and your family. EI services are aimed at minimizing the impact of disabilities on the development of your child. Services for your child may include but are not limited to, speech and language instruction, occupational therapy, physical therapy, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and psychological evaluation. Services for families may include training to help reinforce the affected child’s new skills and counseling to help the family adapt. Early Information about the Legal Rights and Procedures for Early Intervention in your state can be found in the Autism Speaks Resource Guide www.autismspeaks.org/community/fsdb/search.php.
Click on your state and you will find the information under Early Intervention/State Information.
In this same section of the Autism Speaks Resource Guide you will also find state-specific information on the process of transitioning from Early Intervention Services to Special Education Services.
How Do I Get Services Started for My Child?
For Early Intervention Services, if your child is under the age of three, call your local Early Intervention Agency. In most states Early Intervention is provided by the Department of Health. Contact information is included in the local resource guide of this kit. For Special Education Services, if your child is three or older, contact your local school district, and more specifically the Office of Special Education within the school district. In some cases, you may need to put the request in writing that you would like your child evaluated for special education services. Refer to “Assembling Your Team” in this kit for more information. You’ll find more information at the Autism Speaks web site, www.AutismSpeaks.org/resource-guide and in the Action Plan section of this kit.
Before service can be provided, it may be necessary to complete further assessments and evaluations. These may include: An Unstructured Diagnostic Play Session A Developmental Evaluation A Speech – Language Assessment A Parent Interview An Evaluation of Current Behavior An Evaluation of Adaptive or Real Life Skills. You may find yourself spending some time in waiting rooms with your child when you are completing additional evaluations. You have probably already figured out how helpful it is to bring some snacks for your child, his or her favorite toy, or some other form of entertainment to help pass the time. Having to wait for the completion of these additional evaluations, which may be required by the school district or Early Intervention, may be frustrating. There are often waiting lists, so it is important to start the process as soon as possible. The additional evaluations will provide more in-depth information about your child’s symptoms, strengths and needs, and will be helpful for accessing and planning therapy services in the long run. The purpose of the evaluations is to understand your child’s challenges so that he can get the appropriate services that he needs.
The Organization for Autism Research’s A Parent’s Guide to Assessment can be helpful in explaining the results of the evaluations and what they mean for your child.
The guide can be found at www.researchautism.org/resources/reading/documents/AssessmentGuide.pdf. If you find you are spinning your wheels waiting for the results, there are things you can be doing in the meantime. Talk to other parents about what services have been helpful for their children. Investigate the therapies outlined in this kit. Start reading about autism. (There is a list of suggested books and websites at the end this kit, as well as in the Autism Speaks Resource Library.)